Becker Recommends the Book with Some Stiff Criticism

Poor Bill. He’s going to have to suffer through another review of Now Is Gone, this time from Rich Becker.

Before I highlight Rich’s points, I did want to remind folks one more time that on Saturday, February 16 from 1-5 p.m., I will moderate four consecutive one hour sessions on Now Is Gone for the my ooVoo day project. Participants get an autographed copy of Now Is Gone.

If you can’t catch me on the road, this is the perfect opportunity to have a deep dive on social media and how it can benefit your organization.Here’s how it works, visit the my ooVoo day project site and sign up. You’ll download the software (for Mac or PC – both are still in beta).

Rich’s Criticism

Rich thought the book worked: “Now Is Gone is a book that attempts a daunting task and mostly succeeds. It captures new media conversations by communication leaders as it occurred. It’s something David Meerman Scott did with The New Rules of Marketing and PR. For this reason alone, Now Is Gone is exactly what it says it is: a primer on new media for executives and entrepreneurs, people who are starting to realize they need to catch up on several months or years worth of conversation.”

But did have some strong criticism. First up was the use of an informal poll he ran in Chapter 3:

Sure, poll respondents called the Wal-Mart flog the biggest social media transgression to date (36 percent), but only 23 people voted. Nine opinions is hardly as valid as it seems in print.

What’s also missing is that I followed up on the subject, stating that the poll participants were a bit off: John Mackey and Julie Roehm had much larger lapses in ethical judgments. The Wal-Mart flog merely stands out because it was perpetrated by a number of people who knew better, and could have been avoided by the tiniest of disclosures. This doesn’t really detract from the book; it’s just something to keep in mind.

And then there’s the common criticism of the book’s rough copy (a result of the book being rushed to market), and the fact that it really is new media. Meaning that some elements may be inaccurate or overblown in importance as new developments occur.

These latter two criticisms strike me as true. I finally re-read Now Is Gone for the first time in five months. The writing has numerous grammatical errors as a result of our rush to market.

While I still feel right about rushing to market and providing accurate timely info to the marketplace, its effectiveness reminds me of Patton. A bloody, ugly execution that while effective, lacks delicacy and cleanness. True fans of prose (identified by public proclamations of Eats, Shoots and Leaves) will be annoyed. I know I was when I read the word “brand” three times in the first sentence of page 40. Feel free to add your favorite gripe in the comments.

And yes, the conversation has evolved. Though I was pleasantly surprised by how relevant a good portion of the text is. If written today instead of nine months ago, I would add more on measurement, blogger relations, more industry-specific social network communities, and additional information on the symbiotic relationship between traditional and new media. Brian Solis has also indicated a desire for an updated text.

Of course,we have discussed these specific topics in unrelated follow-up posts on Now Is Gone, PR 2.0 and the Buzz Bin and. If there’s a second edition, the text will be re-edited, and updated with the latest social media marketing strategies and information.

P.S. (added 2/15) In addition, I also agree with Chris Thilk and Chip Griffin’s criticism that book uses too many absolutes in the form of musts. More Patton-esque writing. Strong suggestions would have been more productive.

Also, it should be noted that every single person that has taken the time to review the book  — critical or not — has recommended the book.  The total number of reviews including Amazon readers is well over 50 now.

6 Replies to “Becker Recommends the Book with Some Stiff Criticism”

  1. Geoff,

    I’ll take your link as an invitation to join this conversation, but I do so reluctantly. I haven’t reviewed Now Is Gone on my blog, though I did read it several months back. I concur with Rich in that NiG is a solid primer for those trying to catch up on “the conversation” and it highlights some useful case studies, as does the blog.

    I regularly refer my students to this site and to Buzz Bin. Last week, one student told me of a paper she’s writing about your work for Goodwill Industries in the D.C.

    That said, I cannot use NiG in my class, nor can I recommend it to other professionals. Simply put, NiG is poorly written and riddled with grammar and usage errors. Several reviewers of the book have touched on this problem, others have ignored it. NiG reads like a rough draft, not a finished manuscript. Maybe it was “rushed into print,” but that doesn’t make the final product any more palatable. When my students turn in rushed assignments full of errors, the grade is – well – it isn’t good.

    None of us is perfect, Geoff. Hell, if you look closely, you may find an error in this comment. But writing remains the core skill of the public relations professional. It’s important we respect that, even if it means slowing the process of publication to get it right.

    I didn’t post a review of NiG at ToughSledding thanks to a bit of wisdom my grandma often espoused: “If you can’t be kind be quiet.” Until now I’ve been quiet. But you called me out with that link, so today I’m being candid.

  2. Thanks for being candid, Bill, on what you think proper respect for writing is. But you’ve already written that post, haven’t you?

    I still stand by the publisher’s original decision to move to market with what would normally be a rough draft. I knew some folks like you wouldn’t be happy. At the same time, I know the market needs this information now, not on a professor’s collegiate terms and what he or she thinks proper respect for writing is. I don’t respect the need for perfect grammar, nor will I change my execution or approach on this.

    The book isn’t for academics, it’s to get timely information into the hands of people who don’t/won’t read blogs. Academics can afford to be picky about perfect writing. Real world practitioners need to execute now because the market demands it.

    If we had taken the time you demand for perfect grammar, the book would be getting released at the end of March. Far too late in my opinion. And the market has spoken, Bill, with many positive reviews for your one negative one, based on “proper respect for writing.” While I am sure others feel the same as you, I am also sure that enough people don’t have your manners, and that if it was really that bad we would be seeing a lot more negative comments, posts and reviews.

    At the same time, I respect the desire and want for great writing. I suggest Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae. While it doesn’t have the information that Now Is Gone does, it has a lot of great, general social media theory.

  3. I noticed the writing was a bit rough too. While that would have bothered in another genre, not so here. I came at the book with an understanding that there’s information in it I need. To be honest, I didn’t read every word. I just got in, got want I needed and got out.

    Geoff, don’t take that the wrong way. As Francis Bacon says, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

  4. None taken, Roger. I am the same way with business books.

    I was talking with Brian about the book tonight. Hopefully, we will get to a second edition so we can add the new parts, update the rest, make it more social network oriented, and, yes, do something about the typos. Much has happened since it was written.

  5. One more thought… I think Bill should write a review on Tough Sledding and add it to the Amazon reviews. While I stated my views and reasons, his are just as valid, and folks should know what they’re buying.

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